BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — University of Massachusetts junior guard Jesse Morgan pulled up on a fast break and knocked down a 3-pointer that gave the Minutemen their first lead since the opening minutes, sparking celebration from the bench with 9 minutes 42 seconds left.
The joy was short-lived.
After each team made a pair of free throws, Tennessee went on a 14-0 run. UMass never recovered and fell, 83-69, Sunday to finish fourth in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez.
“We didn’t play great offensively, and to be up 2 at that point, I was pretty excited,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “But they took the game over right there.”
During the Volunteers’ clinching surge, UMass couldn’t contain Tennessee power forward Jarnell Stokes. The sophomore scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, including 5 during the run. He added 12 rebounds to pace the Vols’ 51-37 advantage on the glass.
“We wanted to get the ball inside,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It was a concerted effort for Jarnell to get assertive and aggressive. He’s a nimble big man. He knows how to make plays, how to make moves.”
The Minutemen tried several players against him, but couldn’t find a way to stop him. Stokes missed free throws early, but made 7 of 10 in the second half.
“Stokes gave them an inside presence we struggled to handle on both ends,” Kellogg said. “He’s one of the better big men in the country because of his size, his athleticism, and strength. At times we did a good job on him. At other times, he knocked us out of the way.”
The Minutemen cut the deficit to 7 after a 3-pointer by Morgan (18 points) capped an 8-1 spurt that made it 69-62 with 3:17 left, but UMass made just two more field goals as Tennessee (3-1) pulled away.
UMass (2-2) will get 10 days off before it travels to Siena on Nov. 28.
“They do need a little bit of rest to make sure we’re ready to go,” Kellogg said. “We’re not in that kind of shape where we’re flying up and down the floor playing with reckless abandon. Sometimes when you play three games in four days, with another on Tuesday morning, we weren’t as sharp as we could be. They deserve a little break, but at the same token they need to know that was really unacceptable.”
The Minutemen hung in despite missing all-conference point guard Chaz Williams (16 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 turnovers) for an almost eight-minute stretch. Trailing, 45-42, the 5-foot-9-inch point guard, who can dunk, tried to but was blocked by Jordan McRae. Attempting to atone for it, he sprinted back and picked up his fourth foul trying to steal the ball from Armani Moore.
“I tripped over his foot, which caused me to run into him,” Williams said. “I was trying to get the ball back because I just got blocked.”
UMass not only survived Williams’s absence, but initially rallied. Freshman point guard Trey Davis didn’t score, but he ran the offense effectively and helped the Minutemen pull ahead before Tennessee’s knockout blow.
UMass shot just 27 percent from the floor in the second half (10 for 37) and missed 16 layups.
“I’m not real happy with the outcome,” Kellogg said. “I thought we did it to ourselves. Tennessee played well, but we did some things offensively that weren’t very good to watch.”